This Week in Bears Ears News: Trump Executive Order Edition

Mesas and Valley  Bears Ears Country

Well, folks, it really happened. Yesterday, during a whirlwind trip to Utah, President Trump signed an Executive Order shrinking Bears Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres. Chaos ensued. Protests commenced. Parties were thrown. Lawsuits were filed. So what happens now? Let us break it down for you. 

(If you're new to the Bears Ears saga, start here.)

 Here is the official Presidential Proclamation.

This is a good play-by-play of yesterday's events by the Associated Press via U.S. News & World Report: Trump's Cuts to Utah Monument Spark Lawsuits

About those lawsuits: 

  • The Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute tribes yesterday filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Washington. Salt Lake City CBS affiliate KUTV has the story.
  • A group of 10 environmental organizations, represented by the law firm Earthjustice, sued the Trump administration over its changes to the borders of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Read the coverage from CNN.
  • Outdoor retail giant Patagonia, which along with other outdoor recreation companies has been vocal in its defense of Bears Ears, also plans to sue, reports the Washington Post. Quoth Patagonia's famously outspoken founder, Yvon Chouinard: "“It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. This government is evil and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win.”

Essential reading from the Salt Lake Tribune's crackerjack reporter Brian Maffly : Here's a look at the key lands left out of Trump's new monuments - and what areas remain protected.

The animated map in the above piece provides a striking visual explanation of the difference between the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument established by former President Barack Obama and those of the two mini-monuments carved out by the Trump administration. Also helpful: maps of the numerous prior proposals - from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, members of Congress, the Utah Governor's office, and the San Juan County Commissioners - for protecting the Bears Ears region.

High Country News reporter Jonathan Thompson penned a feisty and informative analysis/opinion piece, How to make sense of Trump's changes to Bears Ears. He addresses something we've been scratching our heads over since seeing maps of the new mini monuments. Over the past two-plus years, we have spoken with numerous people in San Juan County on both sides of the monument issue who told us that Cedar Mesa deserved protection. But the new monuments drawn up by the Department of the Interior - those explicitly designed to appease monument opponents - exclude Cedar Mesa. What gives? 

On the other end of the political spectrum, the editorial board of the conservative leaning Deseret News expressed its support for Trump's action while also making a case for exempting Utah from any future attempts by U.S. presidents to create national monuments within its borders. 

Impassioned op-ed from John Echohawk, executive director of Native American Rights Fund, in HuffPost: President Trump's Bears Ears Order is an Attack on Tribal Sovereignty. "Bears Ears signaled progress in preserving and perpetuating our thriving indigenous cultures, and advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Sadly, Drumpf’s actions today fit a growing pattern of discrimination that dishonors Native people, our ancestors, and all those who have fought and sacrificed in service of this sacred land. ...We will not allow the rights of tribes and tribal members to be willfully pushed aside for petty politics and the interest of greed."

Ute Tribe Business Committee Chairman Shaun Chapoose, a key source for our books, sits down with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly to offer his perspective on Trump's actions. From the interview: "What I'm afraid's going to happen is every pot hunter, every grave robber, every artifact person that's trying to make a buck will basically inundate the place and dig up what's left. ...They'll destroy irreplaceable pieces of history." Also, "nothing in the Antiquities Act gives a president the authority to do what he's attempting to do. So we'll challenge him legally."